Edward J. Fuller, Penn State University Nathan Dadey, University of Colorado Boulder
There is widespread agreement among both researchers and policymakers that teacherquality is the single most important school-based factor influencing student test scores.There has long been evidence that students in high-needs schools
those schools servinglarge percentages of poor and minority students
have had less access to well-qualifiedand stable groups of teachers
. Largely in response to this concern, Teach for America(TFA) was created to provide high-quality teachers to high-need schools as a strategy toimprove student achievement and reduce the achievement gap. The underlying assumptionof the TFA strategy is that academically accomplished individuals provided with even ashort period of training will have a larger positive impact on student test scores thanexisting teachers in high-need schools. There has been contentious debate over theeffectiveness of TFA teachers in improving student test scores and other student outcomes, with little high-quality and independent research to inform policymakers about the actualeffects of TFA teachers on student test scores. At the beginning of March, Edvance Research, Inc. and Teach for America released areport titled
Evaluation of Teach for America in Texas Schools.
The report purportedly focused on estimating the impact of Teach for America (TFA) teachers on student testscores on the state-mandated Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAKS) in two sets of grade levels:
grades 4-5 and grades 6-8, which we refer to as the elementary grades andmiddle grades in this review.
More specifically, the report compares differences betweenaverage student TAKS scores for students taught by novice TFA and non-TFA teachers as well as by TFA alumni
and experienced non-TFA teachers
in mathematics and reading.The report adds to the growing literature base on TFA teachers in particular and the effectsof alternatively certified teachers in general.